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How far can India be pushed?

The dastardly rush-hour bombings of trains in Mumbai forces one to sit up and think hard on the question.

india Updated: Jul 13, 2006 14:49 IST

The awful rush-hour bombings of trains in Mumbai raise an important and ominous question: How far can India be pushed?

This question was asked by a former director for South Asia at the US National Security Council, Xenia Dormandy, Wednesday as the United States - from President George Bush to the mainstream American media - joined the rest of the world in condemning the terror attacks in India.

Pakistan needs to respond to militants, she herself answered in an article in the Washington Post, noting that in December 2001 India and Pakistan almost went to war when a group of militants, based on Pakistani-controlled territory, attacked the Indian parliament, killing nine people.

But -- and here's the crux of the matter -- how long can India, Indians and the Manmohan Singh government withstand the constant pressure from militant groups before they have to react?

Dormandy, now executive director for research with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, asked.

By any measure of international diplomacy, they've already been extraordinarily patient and now is a moment when Pakistan really needs to respond, she said.

Islamabad wants to be taken seriously as an important player on the international scene.

It has repeatedly asked the United States for a nuclear energy deal similar to the one US is working on with India, Dormandy noted.

But until Pakistan gets serious about shutting down, arresting and otherwise dismantling the militant groups that operate from its territory, it cannot expect to be treated as a responsible player in the region. Pakistan is working on it, but it could do so much more.

In a similar vein, Washington Times in an editorial on "Terror in Bombay" said the attack must not be allowed to ratchet up tensions between India and Pakistan, which many Indians accuse of secret support for the terrorists.

Pakistan must help India identify and apprehend the terrorists. It might even take a cue from Europe.

"We are all Americans now," some said after the Sept 11 attacks. Today, we are all Indians, it said

The Los Angeles Times in an editorial titled "India: Bombed but Unbowed", said Tuesday's attack displayed the skilful planning that is a hallmark of Kashmiri terrorist groups, which India accuses Pakistan of backing or at least condoning.

But even if such a group is responsible, India and Pakistan should maintain confidence-building measures, such as cross-border bus routes, and avoid unnecessary military escalation, as they largely have since 2002, it said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's quick condemnation of the attacks was a welcome sign that the bombs, devastating though they were, need not change the region's positive course, the Los Angeles Times said.

In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Naresh Fernandes, editor of Time Out Mumbai, described the city as "India's Indestructible Heart".

Despite the long history of sporadic violence, Mumbai has always picked itself up by its bootstraps and marched off to work as soon as the trains started working again, thanks to what the Indian press calls the 'spirit of Bombay', he said.

"Perhaps the newspapers have it right after all. An anguished night has fallen over Mumbai, but when the city eventually sleeps it will do so secure in the knowledge that its spirit is unbroken, that it is, exactly like the myth has it, indomitable and undying," Fernandes concluded.

The cited the Indian ambassador to the US Ronen Sen as saying in an interview that Mumbai's recovery is due to the resilience of its people and the attacks will not affect its role as a global financial centre.

"Indeed, in trading today, India's principal stock index, the Sensex, followed through on Sen's assertion, ending the day sharply higher with a gain of about 3 per cent. The Indian tech giant Infosys' positive first-quarter results was a key reason for the rise," it noted.

The Indian envoy said there has been a method to the madness of terror groups, to undermine democracy, as they did through the attack on the Indian parliament in 2000 and to damage the economy by repeatedly striking Mumbai.

He hoped this would also signal to the world at large that terrorism is a menace that has to be handled globally.

Meanwhile, several US based Indian American organisations including National Federation of Indian American Associations, the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) condemned the attacks.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Islamic advocacy group in United States, has also condemned the attacks.